A factory rifle that shoots just like a top-end custom make, Browning’s X-Bolt Mountain Tungsten Pro in 6.5 PRC is accurate, dependable, and reduces recoil like you won’t believe.
by Jace Bauserman
It’s August, and it’s the first time in 23 years I’m not chasing pronghorn in my home state with archery tackle.
When it was time to apply for Colorado’s big-game draw in April, I cashed in 23 preference points. I secured a limited-entry rifle hunt. I know the unit and the goats that lurk there.
With the tag in my pocket, it was time to select my rifle and send lead downrange regularly.
Oddly, choosing my rifle was more difficult than choosing the unit to cash in 23 years worth of waiting. There are so many excellent firearm manufacturers and so many pronghorn-killing calibers.
After thinking, I chose a brand that has served my shooting needs well over the years. Something about that gold deer emblem makes me smile, and when I looked at Browning’s X-Bolt Mountain Pro Tungsten, I was in love.
The spiral-fluted 24-inch barrel and bolt grabbed my eye from the get-go. Then I noticed the Accent graphics on the Carbon Fiber stock, and my brain immediately thought the rifle was a custom build. The Cerakote Tungsten finish on the barrel and action are stunning, and when I lifted the gun from its case, it felt remarkably light.
I shouldered the short-action rifle, which threw down flawlessly and felt excellently balanced. The Inflex 1 recoil pad nestled into the crease in my shoulder, and the rifle felt smooth and slender in my hands.
Browning added its Hawg Muzzle Brake to reduce felt recoil, and a Picatinny rail sits at the stock’s forend to easily add a bipod. The stock is true carbon fiber, and the magazine is detachable. The bolt unlock button is easily accessible, and the safety sits directly behind the bolt at the top of the stock. It’s a slide-forward/slide-back safety and is easy to manipulate.
A true Browning, the barrel is free-floated and bedded in the front and the rear of the action for stability. Part of the legendary X-Bolt family, the rifle sports a short 60-degree bolt lift for rapid cycling. I was impressed from the get-go.
The unit I will be hunting in October differs from a typical pronghorn country. Instead of being vast and open, the unit sits around 7,300 feet, is tree-covered in areas, and has lots of rolling hills and mountain creeks. I wanted to create a lightweight shooter allowing me to reach out and bust lungs beyond 400 yards.
My optic of choice was Leupold’s VX-3HD 4.5-14×40. This low-profile lightweight scope has remarkable magnification and clarity and features Leupold’s CDS-ZL Dial, which allows the shooter to dial the scope to the exact yardage once the cap is sent into Leupold with the needed data.
The throw-lever on the scope is removable, but I love it. With this lever, magnification adjustments are instant and exact. The scope gathers light like crazy and, like all Leupold optics, promises second-to-none durability. Using Leupold rings and bases, scope attachment took little time.
My ammo choice was Federal’s Custom Shop 6.5 PRC Terminal Ascent. I’ve always had great luck with Federal. I was sure the 130-grain bullet, which according to Federal’s data, would leave the barrel at a blistering 3,025 fps, would get the job done. The bullet has a ballistic coefficient of .532, and Terminal Ascent technology means a bonded construction that penetrates deep on targets close and far.
Federal’s Custom Shop ammo is pricy. However, after 23 years of waiting, I want the very best. I always find that in ammo from Federal.
After removing the bolt, I secured the rifle in BOG’s DeathGrip Tripod, peeked down the sporter contour barrel, and centered it on a 200-yard target. With the rifle locked — BOG’s are fantastic, by the way — I removed the scope turrets and walked the crosshairs to the target’s center to complete the bore-sight process.
Some frown on my long-distance bore sighting, but I have found that if you can center the barrel’s opening on the target, lock the tripod down, and walk the scope in, it’s ultra-effective and saves ammo.
My first shot from 200 yards smacked a 6-inch steel plate. Not too shabby. Before I jump further into the dial-in process, I want to make a few quick points about the rifle.
First, Browning’s data shows the Recoil Hawg muzzle brake, married with the Inflex 1 recoil pad, reduces recoil by as much as 77 percent. I couldn’t agree more. The rifle barely moved at the trigger’s break, and shoulder abuse was zero. To be certain, I removed the rifle from the tripod, laid prone on a backpack, centered the crosshairs on the orange steel plate, and sent another round. Once again, the Terminal Ascent bullet hit home. I watched the impact through the scope, which confirmed the vastly reduced recoil and the rifle’s uncanny out-of-box accuracy.
Clean & Crisp
The Three-lever Feather Trigger is crisp. The trigger comes set from the factory between 3-1/2 and 4 pounds and is adjustable via a trigger screw between 3 and 5 pounds. The break was clean and crisp. I felt no need to tinker with a trigger set perfectly to my liking.
I couldn’t send my Leupold CDS dial in with the appropriate data before the sight-in process. So, I went old school. I used the bullet drop trajectory chart on the ammo box, crunched some numbers, and then played.
My first shot from 300 yards on paper was one inch left and one inch low of the bullseye. I recorded the scope’s setting on a dope card and then moved to 400 yards. My guesstimate from 400 was a little off. I hit four inches low and three inches right. The wind was pushing left to right between 9 and 12 mph, which was why the bullet was further left.
I didn’t care. I was having fun. This rifle doesn’t so much as flinch when fired, and I couldn’t believe how well it handled. I shot it offhand, prone, kneeling, and in the BOG. With each shot, my confidence grew. The rifle is ultra-light and, at 44 inches long, ultra-maneuverable. The combination of staying on target due to reduced recoil and the 60-degree bolt throw means follow-up shots are quick and easy.
After two more shots on paper from 400 yards, I sent one at the 6-inch steel gong and smacked it. The shot was a little high on the plate, but I wasn’t locked in the BOG. I took this shot prone off a backpack, and I was happy with the results from 400 yards.
A Quick Bath & Back At It
After six shots, the X-Bolt Mountain Pro was reasonably dialed-in at 400 yards, and it was time for a bath. Browning’s proprietary lapping process is a win, and after a rapid cleaning with Real Avid gun cleaning solutions, it was back to the range.
The time between shot number 6 and shot number 7, which was a cold-bore shot from 300 yards, was four hours. When the Feather Trigger broke, the round clacked the steel plate. I confirmed accuracy at 400 and 500 yards and slid the rifle into its case.
Only sometimes do test/sight-in days go so smoothly. Browning wanted a semi-custom rifle creation without the sticker shock accompanying a genuine custom rifle build. Mission accomplished. This rifle is as accurate as the day is long, feels remarkable in hand, and I have no doubt I will report that a banger of a pronghorn fell to the X-Bolt Mountain Pro Tungsten chambered in 6.5 PRC come October.
Browning 6.5 PRC X-Bolt Mountain Pro Tungsten Specs:
- Action Length: Short Action
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor
- Barrel Length: 24 in.
- Overall Length: 44 in.
- Length of Pull: 13 5/8 in.
- Drop at Comb: 11/16 in.
- Drop at Heel: 1/2 in.
- Weight: 6 lbs. 2 oz.
- Magazine Capacity: 4
- Twist Rate: 7
- Barrel Finish:Tungsten Cerakote
- Stock Finish: Accent graphics/Carbon Fiber
- Receiver Finish:Tungsten Cerakote
- Chamber Finish: Polished
- Barrel Material: Stainless
- Barrel Contour: Sporter
- Stock Material: Carbon Fiber
- Recoil Pad: Inflex 1, Small
- Drilled and Tapped for Scope:Yes